Dude Slow Down: Why The Right Time Under Tension Workouts Will Help You Get A Better Physique Faster

“If I pump the weight faster it will make my muscles work twice as hard, which means I will get bigger faster!”

Ok not so fast.  This kind of approach is something I still see and maybe I was once guilty of this twisted thinking.  I had not been exposed to the concept of time under tension early on but hopefully you have been.  If not then here it is.

What Is Time Under Tension?

Time under tension is the amount of time the muscle is placed under stress when it contracts.  In other words, it is the amount of time it takes from the point of beginning a repetition or set until it is completed.

So doing a super slow rep and set will help you get leaner and have bigger muscle right?  Well not so fast.  More is not always best.  Getting lean and lifting the right amount of weight is what will give you the best results.

Muscle Growth Is A Combination Of Factors

The two things to consider at this point are that heavy weight plus time under tension will trigger muscle growth.

MG= Weight + Time Under Tension

If you can keep the muscle under a long period of tension this may mean that you are lifting weight that is too light.  As you can see this does not help with muscle growth.  By the same token, lifting TOO HEAVY to the point that you cannot keep the muscle under enough time in tension will not be enough to trigger muscle growth.

It is easy to feel tempted to do a workout at a fast pace. Doing a fast paced set gives the feeling of getting more done and also leaves a pump in the muscle.  If you find yourself doing this fast pumping action it is best to evaluate exactly how light the weight you are lifting is.

What Is The Proper Pace For Lifting Weight?

Here is where there is debate.  There are different theories as to what is slow enough versus too slow.  The pace that is best to follow is performing slower on the negative range of the repetition.  For best results it is best to do a pace of 2-3 seconds on the negative movement of the rep and 1-2 seconds contracting the muscle.

Here are some examples:

  • Biceps Curl:  1 to 2 seconds on the way up and 2 to 3 seconds when going down with the weight.
  • Chest Press:  It should take 2 to 3 seconds to lower the weight to your chest and 1 to 2 seconds to bring the weight up.
  • Pull Downs:  1 to 2 seconds to lower the weight and 2 to 3 seconds to bring the bar back up.
  • Squats:  2 to 3 seconds on the way down and 1 to 2 seconds when coming up.

These are some examples but you get the idea.  The point is to move a bit faster when contracting the muscle.

What About The Number of Repetitions?

Well when it comes to building muscle you want to make sure you are performing each rep with proper form and using a full range of motion.  The next thing you want to do is perform in a rep range of 8 to 10 if you want to increase muscle size.  If you want to get a lean look then go with a lower rep range of 4 to 5 reps.

The time under tension in a workout should be around 30-45 seconds per set for muscle building and 15-25 seconds per set for muscle toning.  However don’t focus too much on time to complete each set.  As long as you develop this slower than usual pace you will be around this proper range.

Try to do your time under tension workouts as outlined above and you will see that you will get a better physique faster than you expected.